What should an employer do if an employee is diagnosed with COVID-19? 

By Jenni Ives
  • Ensure the diagnosed employee does not return to the workplace and seeks appropriate medical care. 
  • Immediately notify the local health department and follow its guidance.
  • Identify and notify all employees who may have come into contact with the diagnosed employee while at the workplace. Notify those individuals and require 14 day quarantines for all impacted employees, in consultation with the local health department and legal counsel.
  • Identify any contractors, customers, clients, distributors or any other individual who may have been exposed to the diagnosed employee in the course of the employee's work. Consult legal counsel to notify these individuals of the potential exposure. 
  • Make sure to keep the identity of the diagnosed employee confidential.
  • Prepare to issue the following communications, as applicable:
    • Notification to impacted individuals who may have been exposed to the diagnosed employee during the course of work.
    • Notification to non-impacted employees about the matter and what the employer is doing to ensure workplace safety.
      • Consider developing FAQs to answer employee questions.
    • Notification to contractors entering the workplace about the matter and what the company is doing to ensure their safety.
    • Notification to clients, customers and distributors regarding the matter and what the company is doing to ensure the safety of the company's continued provision of services or products.

Note: We highly recommend working with legal counsel on these communications

  • Implement deep cleaning and sanitation measures recommended by the CDC and your local health department.
  • The employer may want to develop talking points for use in response to media inquiries.
    • Employers may find it useful to work with a public relations firm in conjunction with legal counsel.
    • Consider proactively preparing a news release, as well as social media talking points for use by the company in case it becomes necessary to address the issue on the company's LinkedIn page, Facebook, Twitter feed, etc.
    • Employers should remind their employees of the employer's social media policy and ask them to follow the policy when posting on social media.
  • Make sure to satisfy OSHA reporting obligations.
  • Prepare to notify impacted employees of benefits they may be entitled to, such as: EPSLA, EFMLEA, FMLA, sick leave or workers compensation.
  • Establish return to work procedures for impacted employees. Follow the recommendations of the CDC and your local health department and consult legal counsel about when it is appropriate to return impacted employees to work.
  • If an employer has not already, the employer should:
    • Implement remote work options, taking care to ensure the security of the employer's resources.
    • Implement social distancing measures.
    • Educate employees on proper hygiene measures, such as frequent hand washing, as recommended by the CDC and local health departments.
    • Implement travel policies, restricting business travel to hot spots and requiring self-quarantine after personal travel to hot spots.
    • Limit visitors entering the workplace. For those visitors who must enter the workplace, work with legal counsel to enact procedures to ensure the visitor does not create the risk of COVID-19 exposure.
    • Share Employee Assistance Program information with employees to enhance employee wellness during these uncertain times.
  • Employers should remain cognizant of anti-discrimination requirements under federal, state and local law and beware of treating employees differently based on a protected class (for example, age, national origin or disability). Employees should further ensure that their actions do not have a disparate impact on a particular protected class.

While these action items are intended to assist you to navigate an employee COVID-19 diagnosis, we urge you to follow all guidance provided by the federal government, state or local governments, the CDC, official health agencies and to consult your legal counsel.

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